Today, one of my favourite Twitter writing friends, Rob Matthews, has taken over my blog. I hope you enjoy his guest post.
In her book, Better Than Before – Mastering The Habits Of Our Everyday Lives, Gretchen Rubin divides people into three groups based on how we respond to outer and inner expectations.
Outer expectations are demands put on us by other people – family, boss, editor etc. Inner expectations are demands we place on ourselves – lose weight, learn Russian, write 2000 words a day etc.
According to Rubin, if you’re an UPHOLDER, you meet both sets of expectations. You do whatever anyone else wants you to do and you hit all the targets you set for yourself. In other words, you’re superhuman.
If you’re a REBEL, you refuse – consciously or unconsciously – to do what other people tell you. You also kick against the expectations you put on yourself. No one tells you what to do – not even you.
If you’re an OBLIGER, you do what other people want you to do. But you’re no good when it comes to your own goals.
Rubin doesn’t specify what you are if you meet your own expectations, but never those of anyone else. So I’ll call this sort of person a SELFISH BASTARD.
Which one are you?
When it comes to writing, I’m definitely an OBLIGER. If my editor is expecting a script by a certain date, I can write for twelve hours a day. Fuelled by coffee and Maltesers, I skip meals and bedtimes. The only thing that matters is meeting the deadline.
But there are times when a writer just has to write with no deadline, no contract, and no promise that anyone will ever read the stuff. These are the times when distracting questions come into my head. What have my friends on Facebook done in the ten minutes since I last checked? Is “Rocky Raccoon” the last Beatles song on which John Lennon played mouth organ – I mean, I need to know?
If any of this sounds familiar, you might find it useful to have a Writing Buddy. Your Buddy is a fellow writer. You make a pact to keep each other motivated by agreeing goals and then checking in to see if these goals have been achieved. In other words, inner expectations take on the form of outer expectations.
You can meet your buddy face to face – although, be warned, this will often descend into a bitchfest about the literary world today and editors who wouldn’t recognize true genius if they were slapped with it. Or you can talk on the phone. The way that works best for my Buddy and me is that I email her on Sunday evening to tell her all my writing objectives for the next seven days. For example, “By this time next week, I will have written 4000 words of my new novel. I will have completed the first edit of the book I’m going to send off next month. I will have started researching the article I’m planning to write.”
I never give myself get-out clauses. I don’t say, “I’m very busy this week, so it’s going to be difficult, but, if possible, I’d like to write 1000 words of my new novel, but I might not have the time.” Life will sometimes get in the way of writing, but I prefer to go into the process with a positive expectation that I will achieve my goals.
She replies, telling me what she’s going to do.
Then, on Friday or Saturday, we email each other again. “I’ve had a good week. I wrote 4356 words. I completed the edit. I didn’t get round to researching the article, so that’s a goal for next week.” We could combine the goal-setting and review emails into one, but we find it works better this way. New week. New start.
Having a Writing Buddy won’t work if you’re a REBEL. Sooner or later, you’ll tell your Buddy where he can stick his expectations and go back to what you were doing before.
If you’re a SELFISH BASTARD, you won’t be interested in your Buddy’s objectives. Your Buddy will soon drop out of the process if it’s not two-way. You and your Buddy must motivate each other.
And if you’re an UPHOLDER, you’ve already finished your book, cleaned the house, learned Russian, and spent four hours volunteering at the homeless shelter. You don’t need anyone to motivate you and you’re already an inspiration to everyone who knows you.
But if you’re an OBLIGER, you will be more productive if you have a Writing Buddy. I’ve been surprised at how well it works. Just making an agreement with someone else that I will write a certain amount by a certain time keeps me going.
Thank you, Rob! Great guest post.
Rob Matthews is the author of the Cuckold Odyssey series and other erotic novels. Check out his page on Amazon: